Week 1,981 of occupation
The settlers` violent harassment campaign in Hebron
The Jewish settlements in the city of Hebron continue to be the source of a concerted campaign of violent harassment of the local Palestinian population. These attacks are often intended to enforce Jewish-only access to services and infrastructure. On Thursday, May 19, two settlers from the Tel Rumeida settlement in Hebron attacked a 73-year-old Palestinian women who had thrown a bag of garbage in a dumpster that they said was for the settlers only. On Friday, May 20, three girls were attacked and beaten by settlers from Kiryat Arba, adjacent to Hebron, for using a `settlers-only` road.
Saturday, on the Jewish Sabbath, the Cordoba girls` school in the Tel Rumeida section was again attacked by settlers throwing stones, eggs, and tomatoes.
Later on the same day, more than 30 Israeli activists were arrested as they attempted to enter the center of Hebron to protest the expansion of settlement activity, the paving of the settler-only road through Arab neighborhoods, and as a gesture of solidarity with the Palestinian families in the area. The activists had been followed by police, who succeeded in preventing some from entering the city. The activists were also met with settlers hurling stones and eggs.
In February of 2005, at the Sharm-el Sheikh summit, Ariel Sharon and Mahmoud Abbas shook hands on a verbal agreement to end hostilities and continue with implementation of the `road map` for peace. While Israelis security sources have noted the Palestinian leader`s good faith effort to end attacks and disarm wanted militants, Israel has continued to operate on a daily basis within Palestinian communities.
A May 25 report by B`tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, entitled `Take No Prisoners,` reports that these operations are occasions for the undisciplined use of deadly force by IDF troops, amounting to even an unofficial assassinations policy.
The 16 or more IDF incursions this week, as counted by the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, illustrate the vague and liberalized `open-fire regulations` discussed in the B`tselem report. On Friday, May 20, in a raid on the Balata refugee camp near Nablus, soldiers shot and wounded two targets of `arrest operations,` one in the abdomen and one in the shoulder, as they were fleeing.
Officials of the Palestinian Authority are concerned that Israel`s continual incursions, along with the expansion of settlements and construction of the annexation wall, will undermine the position of Mahmoud Abbas, and make it difficult for him to enforce a ceasefire. The secretary of the Palestinian presidency, Taleb Abdel Rahim, in a speech on Friday, accused Israel of trying to provoke Palestinian militants and undermining the credibility of the Abbas. “These Israeli policies and many practices, especially building the Wall, expanding the settlements, cutting off the cites and villages from each other, arrest operations and assassinations, will all lead to missing the opportunity for peace.”
Bil`in protests continue
On Friday, May 20, a nonviolent protest against the annexation wall in Bil`in and the confiscation of village lands, was again met with tear gas, rubber bullets, and live ammunition. Local residents and Israeli activists were arrested. Some were hospitalized for gas inhalation, and 40-year-old Hussein Hassan was was wounded by a rubber-coated metal bullet.
The killing of two boys from the village of Likiya on May 4 remains the subject of conflicting accounts. The IDF maintains that the two boys, cousins Jamal Issa and Uday Issa, were among a crowd of 150 who were throwing stones at a small group of soldiers, after being chased away from an annexation wall construction site. After rubber bullets failed to disperse the crowd, the commander attempted to shoot at the legs of the demonstrators. He claims to have fired only one bullet, at the legs of the group of boys. Palestinian eyewitnesses saw a second force lying in wait as the soldiers chased the group of boys toward the village. The witnesses claim that this was a deliberate ambush, and that many more shots were fired.
The Fatah-Hamas election dispute
On Wednesday, May 11, a Palestinian court cancelled the results of the recent municipal council elections in the Gaza Strip town of Rafah. The court ordered a new election in 51 of the city`s 140 electoral precincts. The Hamas movement, which had won the initial vote count in Rafah, accepted the court`s decision, but later rejected it, arguing that it was a political ruling. Hamas continued its mortar attacks in the southern Gaza Strip and on the Jewish settlement of Gush Katif.
Meanwhile the two largest Palestinian political factions are locked in dispute about the date of the elections to the Palestinian Legislative Council, scheduled for July of this year. Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas, has stated his preference of postponing the elections until November, while the Hamas movement has objected to what it sees as simply a tactical delay, to allow the Fatah movement to recover some of its lost support.
Sources: Ha`aretz, International Middle East Media Center, Palestinian Center for Human Rights, Ynet, Palestinenet.